Original artwork by Anish Kumar Daolagupu.
Ghosts stories have always been an integral part of Bengali literature. No matter how much it scared us, a ghost story was a must from our grandparents during bed time. Just like any Bengali, our ghosts are also as unique as our culture. They might be lurking around dark alley ways to lure you into harm's way or inviting themselves to dinner if you're about to enjoy a tasty fish dish tonight.
Here are 12 different types of Bengali ghosts who can give you sleepless nights.
They are vicious demons with pointed fangs, sharp claw-like fingernails, who often feed on humans. According to the folklore, when they smell humans they call out, "Hau, mau, khau...Manusher gondho pau (I can smell a human)."
They are the mini-versions of Rakkhosh, and quite malicious in nature.
They are the ghosts of unmarried women, who died with unfulfilled desires. They can take any shape and are said to live in shayora gachh or sandpaper fig trees.
They are the ghosts of married women, who are often spotted wearing red and white sarees, and shankha and pola (shell and coral) bangles. They are supposed to live near ponds, and if they spot rich married women nearby they possess these women, so that they get to relive their married days once more.
They are the ghosts of Muslim men according to Bengali folklore, and are often noted to be very mischievous.
They are the ghosts of those who died of beheading. Legend says, they never stop searching for their missing heads. Sometimes they ask lone travellers to help them look for it, and sometimes they hypnotise innocent passersby into helping them look for their missing heads.
They are the ghosts of Brahmins, often seen wearing their poite (holy thread) even as spirits. The legends don't agree on whether they are benevolent or fearsome spirits, since there are plenty supporting both.
These spirits are guardians of treasures, and if you try to steal their wealth, they're not known to be too kind. Much like a dragon's gold, a Jokkho's treasure is supposed to be cursed. Legend also says that when a person dies trying to greedily protect their wealth from all, they get trapped in this world as ghosts to protect this wealth forever.
They are flesh-eating demons, who haunt cremation grounds and graveyards after darkness descends. They can possess a person or infect their mind.
These are vindictive spirits that call out to people in their loved ones' voices. This call is called the “Nishir Daak.” They lure people away in order to harm them. They are supposed to be most active on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday evenings.
According to local legends, when fishermen die while fishing they turn into Aleya, which are strange orbs of light that float over marshes. They often lead other fishermen to their deaths. Some versions of local folklore also say that Aleya can lead a person away from harm's way by showing a lost traveller the right path.
These ghosts are obsessed with eating fish. They go lurking around homes where they can smell fishes, and can hurt those who refuse to give them a share of their spoils.
Afraid of the dark yet?